New Zealand

Encouraged by Samuel Marsden, the evangelical chaplain in Sydney, Samuel Leigh began a mission at Kaeo, North Island, in 1822. This settlement, 'Wesleydale', was destroyed by a Maori attack in 1827, but a new mission on the Hokianga Harbour the following year had greater success among the Maoris. In 1840 both Anglican and Methodist missionaries had a hand in the Treaty of Waitangi, which helped to protect Maori rights; but the Maori Wars of 1845-69 hampered the mission and there was a gradual shift of emphasis towards the European settlers, whose numbers were increased in the 1870s by rural immigrants from the English shires. In 1855 New Zealand was included in the Australasian Conference. It became a separate Conference in the Australasian Church in 1873 and an autonomous Conference in 1913.

Meanwhile, smaller Methodist bodies had begun work there. PM work was begun in New Plymouth in 1844 by Robert Ward and spread to other towns and cities. In 1841 a BC local preacher Henry Gilbert began a society at New Plymouth which later joined the PM cause. In 1873 a fresh start was made in Christchurch by another BC local preacher Edward Reed and among the missionaries sent out were John Orchard and William Ready. In 1868 Matthew Baxter gained a foothold for the UMFC in Christchurch, but the work there and in other towns was always overshadowed by the WM presence. Both BCs and the UMFC united with the WM in 1896 and in 1913 PM joined the newly autonomous Methodist Church of New Zealand ('Te Haahi Weteriana O Aotearoa'). In 2003 this reported a membership of 9,473, plus a further 11,749 members in 'Cooperative Ventures' (with Presbyterians, Anglicans or Churches of Christ), making a total of 22,524.

  • J. Guy and W.S. Potter, Jubilee Memorial Volume of Fifty Years of Primitive Methodism in New Zealand (Wellington, NZ, 1893)
  • William Morley, History of Methodism in New Zealand (Wellington, New Zealand, 1900)
  • Edward H. Sugden, '[Methodism] in Australasia', in New History of Methodism (1909) pp.236-65
  • C.H. Laws, 'New Zealand, 1821-1853', in WHS Proceedings, 17 pp.8-10
  • G.G. Findlay and W.W. Holdsworth, The History of the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society (1921-1924), vol. 3 pp.165-253
  • Lineham, Peter, ed., Weaving the Unfinished Mats: Wesley's Legacy - Conflict, Confusion and Challenge in the South Pacific (Auckland, NZ, 2007)